NEWTON AND DARWIN
By discovering a mechanism in the movements of the heavenly bodies, Newton made Materialism a plausible explanation of the Universe apart from living beings.
Darwin, by his theory of Natural Selection, seemed to have found a mechanism capable of explaining the origin of living beings as well. All questions became reducible to problems of molecular physics.
From this it would follow that consciousness in any of its forms whether thought, feeling or will-can initiate nothing; it is merely an epiphenomenon', i.e. a functionless shadow cast by the material process.
But the view that consciousness is no more than a passive shadow entails certain paradoxical conclusions-among others that Science itself is an illusion.
THE POWER OF METAPHOR
The human mind naturally thinks in pictures; when it thinks of the Totality of things this is inevitable. But it is important to choose the picture, metaphor or myth which is most illuminating.
Theism pictures the Power behind the Universe as in some way resembling human personality; this is decried as anthropomorphism, i.e. as a making of God in the image of man. Materialism pictures the Universe as an Infinite Machine; this by analogy may be called mechanomorphism.
Mechanomorphism is essentially myth; but the dazzling triumphs of machinery in the nineteenth century made it imaginatively an attractive myth. Yet every machine is an instrument designed to effect a definitely realised purpose, and is itself the expression of the concentrated intelligence of an inventor. It is fallacious to overlook this, and then apply the metaphor of a machine to the Universe as if the oversight made no difference.
THE CONCEPTION OF MECHANISM
In origin Mechanism is an abstract quality corresponding to the concrete thing machine; that is to say, it is a quality, not of any object existing in Nature, but of certain artificial constructions made by man.Hence to apply the conception to Nature in anything like its original sense is to be guilty of anthropomorphism in a double degree.
As employed by Science the conception of Mechanism definitely excludes certain of the most essential elements in the original meaning. That being so, it is no longer an abstract term corresponding to an actually existing object; it has become a pure symbol. It ceases, therefore, to be an explanation of anything. Still less can the Universe be explained in terms of something which never has existed, nor could exist, but is a symbol of an abstract relationship. (An objection to this argument from the standpoint of the science of Mechanics is discussed in a footnote.)
Recent Science rejects the old conceptions of Matter, Force and Causation, making it hard to frame a 'model' of how the Mechanism works. Moreover, the apparent inconsistency between the laws seeming to apply to the behaviour of the atom has done away with the clear-cut simplicity which made Mechanism an attractive explanation. Professor Whitehead's view that the atom should be regarded rather as an organism than as a mechanism.
The resolution of the atom into proton and electrons, though its importance from the philosophical standpoint is probably not great, strikes at the imaginative basis of popular Materialism. It has also served to call the attention of scientific workers to the philosophical problems raised by the fact of knowledge.
Recent physicists object that the old conception of Force as 'something which pulls or pushes' is anthropomorphic, and would substitute the conception of Energy, Potential and Kinetic. (Is not potentiality an explanation in terms of expectation and therefore equally anthropomorphic ?) But, if the old conception of Force is surrendered, the meaning of Mechanism becomes still more attenuated.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
The meaning of Causation is a highly debatable question. Unless, however, we are prepared to follow the lead of the Philosophical Idealists, we must admit that it is a symbolic representation of an element in Ultimate Reality as to the real nature of which we know nothing. In either case the old mechanistic materialism is ruled out.
The resolution of space and time into 'space-time' raises in an acute form the question, What is matter ? and Materialism loses its prima facie plausibility in proportion as matter ceases to be a simple, solid, permanent reality.
NEWTON AND DARWIN
MATERIALISM as a system goes back past Epicurus to Democritus, four hundred years B.C. and more. It did not become plausible till after Newton.
I had rather [wrote Bacon, the apostle of the inductive methods of modern science] believe all the fables in the Legend and the Talmud and the Alcoran than that this universal frame is without a mind.
And such is still the common-sense verdict of ordinary humanity. The discoveries of Newton unveiled a mechanism. It was this that woke the scepticism of the thinking few. Before that, men instinctively looked to the heavens and there saw declared the glory of God and a firmament that showed His handiwork. Newton explained the working of it all on a few simple mechanical principles. It was left to others to draw the moral to which Laplace gave classical expression-when asked why, in a treatise on Astronomy, God was nowhere mentioned-' Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis'.
But that hypothesis still seemed to be needed in the domain of Natural History, and it seemed indispensable to account for the origin of Man. In the delicate adjustment of each and every one of the bodily organs to the function it subserves-the eye for seeing, the fin for swimming, the wing for flight-and even more in the fact of Reason manifest in the mind of man, there still appeared to be evidence unmistakable of the conscious purpose and intelligent design of a wise Creator.
Then came Darwin, indicating a mechanism, automatic in its working, which might explain this too.
Darwin started from two facts of familiar observation. (1) The several offspring of any living organism, plant or animal, are never all exactly alike; they 'vary' slightly both from the parent and from one another. (2) Variations from the type form appearing in an individual may be inherited by its descendants.
Upon his creative imagination flashed the idea of applying to these facts the conception of 'Natural Selection '. He argued that a variation from the standard type might often be of such a character as to make it easier for the individual to procure food, to escape its enemies, or in some other way have a better chance in the struggle for existence. Whenever this happened, the individual so equipped would survive longer than the rest and would leave behind it more descendants. If its descendants inherited the useful variation, they, too, would do the same. On the other hand, the descendants of those individuals of the stock which lacked this new equipment would in every generation die sooner, or leave behind them less offspring, than their more fortunate cousins. Hence the new type would gradually, at least in certain areas, replace the old. A stock-farmer deliberately ' selects ' for parentage such individuals as display some quality he most desires. According as his aim is milk or meat, he breeds from one or another set of cattle. Thus by selective breeding from individuals which exhibit some measure of variation in the direction he desires, gradually in the course of several generations he, so to speak, piles up small variations into great, and produces a herd which, with some degree of exaggeration, might be styled a new sub-species. Darwin conceived of Natural Selection as a mechanism capable of producing new species by a similar piling up of small variations spread over an immense period of time. And it was a mechanism which could function automatically. For the mere fact that a particular variation happens to give an individual an advantage in the struggle for existence means that that individual has a chance above the average of propagating its kind. The discrimination which the stock-farmer effects by selective breeding, in Nature results from the earlier death of the less well-equipped. Automatically, therefore, in every generation those best adapted to their environment increase and multiply, the rest diminish and may ultimately become extinct. So long as the crop of variation is sufficiently abundant, individuals will constantly occur which are in some ways better adapted to their environment than any heretofore existent, and Nature will automatically select and breed, from these. The human eye is an instrument extraordinarily elaborate and wonderfully adapted for its purpose-so wonderfully, said' Paley, that it is conclusive evidence of the conscious design of an intelligent Creator. Darwin replied that Natural Selection would suffice, given only, to start with, a spot of protoplasm specially sensitive to light, and the occurrence of indefinite and minute variations over a sufficiently long period of time. All can be explained in terms of mechanism, automatic and unconscious.
Biology since Darwin has not stood still; but it would be outside my present purpose to discuss the question of the bearings of later discovery on his conception of the mechanism of evolution. I am only concerned to point out here how inevitable it was that the work of Darwin should seem to bring to its triumphant climax the long and fruitful effort of Astronomy, Physics and Chemistry to explain the Universe completely in mathematical and mechanical terms. All questions, it was proclaimed, were reducible in the last resort to problems of molecular Physics. Assume-it is a big assumption-certain properties as somehow self -existent in the atom, and some great initial 'push,' and everything else would automatically evolve, as a necessary consequence rigidly determined by the structure of matter and the original direction of primal energy.
There follows by inexorable logic the ineluctable conclusion that thought, feeling, will, can initiate nothing, change nothing, do nothing. Consciousness is only an 'epiphenomenon ', a functionless shadow cast by automatic changes in that material process which is the sole reality.
This last conclusion, however-and without doubt it is the only conclusion which the promises admit-lands us in a difficulty, and one that appears the greater the more closely it is examined. The 'shadow' has the curious property that it is conscious of itself. Moreover, though it is alleged to be impotent to do, it is certainly potent to think and to know-otherwise the whole structure of the sciences is illusion, and so the case for regarding consciousness as an epiphenomenon is illusion too.
Again, reasoning, the psychologists insist, is a function of ' conation ' or will; and in the course of biological evolution thought certainly appears as secondary to desire (cf.p. 77). Unless, then, it be a 'variation' useful to the individual in the struggle for existence, why has Natural Selection so enormously developed it? Yet again, if thought is a product of the Will to live, it is odd that it should discover that life itself is a process mechanically determined and therefore destitute of will. It is odd, too, that a Universe which is itself an automaton should give birth to little automata alive enough to know that their life is an illusion.
Yet again, if he starts with the assumption that matter alone is real, and that all that happens is the result of its mechanically determined movements, the Materialist must deny to consciousness any independent activity. How then can he allow any validity to Science itself ? Science is a system of knowledge built up by the concentrated thought of generations of acute inquirers, and thought is an act of consciousness. If consciousness is a passive shadow, Science is just a fainter shadow cast upon the first by the Unknown.
THE POWER OF METAPHOR
The attractiveness of Materialism depends, to an extent which is not commonly recognised, on its appeal to the imagination. The human mind, even when highly trained, thinks to a great extent in pictures. Indeed, it is one purpose of this book to suggest that when the human mind tries to envisage the Universe as a whole, it can do no other, and that therefore true wisdom lies in frankly accepting this necessary limitation, and concentrating our efforts on finding the right picture. In studying ordinary objects we begin by noticing their resemblance to things already known, and so assigning them to this class or to that. But the Universe is like nothing but itself ; classification, which is the very basis of all ordinary knowledge, is here meaningless, for the thing to be studied can be classed with nothing else. The best we can do is to find the illuminating metaphor, the picturesque analogy, the symbol or the myth, which will help us to apprehend some aspects of the truth. The Materialism of the last century I regard as a metaphor of this kind. It pictured the Universe as an Infinite Machine. A belief in God which ascribes to the Ultimate Reality qualities quintessentially human, like reason or love, is often decried as anthropomorphism, as an attempt to I fashion the Infinite after man's own image. But if Theism is anthropomorphism, Materialism is mechanomorphism, an attempt to fashion the Infinite in the image of a machine.
Mechanomorphism is essentially myth-and, up to a point, useful and illuminating myth. And it was a myth specially attractive in the later Victorian age, when the world was still dazzled by that unending procession of fresh mechanical inventions which our sated imaginations take as a matter of course. Fabrics with a delicacy of pattern rivalling the finest wrought by the alert brain and skilful fingers of living human agents, were being produced by dead machinery working in rigid unalterable planes and circles, impelled by impersonal forces like electricity or steam. And the pattern of the Universe that Science was revealing seemed to be the result of some all-pervading energy working in accord with rigid unalterable laws. How easy so to think of It! Go into a printing-house : see, at one end of the machine, a great blank roll of paper; at the other, neatly folded up and counted, copies of a journal pouring out, replete with information, argument and rhetoric. Why may we not picture the Universe as a similar machine-at one end the formless nebulae wafted through the inane; at the other the mind of man, capable of poetry, heroism and love?
Press the analogy and it reads a very different lesson.
The machine, I grant, by purely mechanical processes turns blank paper into speaking literature; but what guides it and what finds expression in the written words is living intelligence. I grant, too, that it has reached its present perfection as a result of a long, slow evolution through simpler stages; but to that evolution-to the designing, to the co-ordinating, to the intricate adaptation of those mechanic forces themselves-have gone centuries of conscious thought and invention, ever developing, improving, elaborating the rhythmic harmony of inter-related parts; and every modification at every stage was inspired by conscious purpose striving for the attainment of some clearly envisaged end. A machine as it stands is a dead and rigid thing, and the force which drives it is an unconscious force; but, for all that, the simplest machine is the epitome and distillation of longconcentrated conscious purpose linked with keen intelligence. It has taken centuries of conscious and intelligent effort to produce the machine which prints our morning paper, and has this Universe,-a machine the complexity and intricacy of which baffles the intellect and bewilders the imagination,-come into existence of itself, the result of blind unconscious force? Is the Universe one gigantic accident consequent upon an infinite succession of happy flukes? Of all the strange beliefs that man has cherished, none flaunts a paradox so staggering as this.
THE CONCEPTION OF MECHANISM
At this point I am compelled to touch on some questions of a more technical character. The reader who is conversant, even to a small extent, with scientific or with philosophic discussion will, I hope, find no difficulty in following my argument, whether he agrees with it or not. But any one who has no special interest either in Science or in Philosophy would do well, at any rate on a first reading of this book, to omit the remainder of the present chapter.
The conception of the Universe as an Infinite Machine is obviously metaphor; and though metaphors of this kind may be taken literally by the unreflective, thinkers recognise them as myth. It is otherwise with abstract terms. Of such terms Mechanism has proved one of the most delusive. Mechanism is the abstract conception which corresponds to the concrete thing machine; in origin it is a generalisation arrived at from the contemplation of actual machines. But every actual machine is a thing made by man for the attainment of some purely human end. Hence to use the term mechanism at all for the description of natural phenomena is to be guilty of anthropomorphism-if that be a matter of guilt-in a double degree. The anthropomorphism of religion interprets the Universe in terms of human personality-that is to say, in terms of the most remarkable natural product of that Universe. But mechanism is a conception doubly anthropomorphic, for it is derived from artificial constructions devised by human personalities for their own private uses.
The conception of Mechanism has been the master key of scientific discovery. Since, however, in origin it is a metaphor drawn from observation of machinery, it is of the first importance to beware lest illegitimate associations derived from its original nonscientific sense be allowed to creep unawares into its scientific usage. Otherwise an element of mythology will make its way into the citadel of Science. Now a machine is essentially an instrument; it is not in itself a creative power. It is a method by which creative thought seeks to attain ends clearly foreseen. It is something initiated by intelligence, controlled by a living agent and directed by purpose. Since, then, the abstract idea of mechanism is reached by way of generalisation from actual machines, it ought properly to include all this. As a matter of fact, it is employed by Science expressly in order to exclude everything of the sort. If this were merely a question of the use of words, it would not matter. The scientist-provided he is careful always to define his terms-has a right, like Alice's Humpty Dumpty, to make words mean what he chooses. But it is not legitimate to employ a word in an attenuated meaning and to expect at the same time to retain the good-will ', so to speak, of its old 'connection '. My point is this: an actual machine is a 'going concern '; but it is that only because it was designed and is controlled by intelligence and purpose; leave out these and it is nothing at all. If then you explain Nature which is also a 'going concern '-in terms of mechanism while expressly excluding from the connotation of that word all reference to intelligence and purpose, you are explaining it in terms of something that never has existed and never could. Mechanism so conceived is pure symbol; it is simply a name for an abstract relation which has not corresponding to it any concrete object of which we have actual experience.
Now mathematicians constantly reach valuable results by making use of symbols, such as [\/ - 1], to which nothing in human experience is known to correspond. Physical Science is entitled to do the same; and it has done so, with conspicuous success, in the case of this conception of mechanism. Indeed it has been this conception more than any other that has thrown wide open to the human race the door of knowledge. But it is quite another matter to interpret the Universe as a whole in terms of mechanism without asking for what the concept mechanism as used by Science really stands.
Science uses the concept of mechanism as a principle by means of which it is possible to co-ordinate innumerable observations dealing with moving bodies. In so far as any concept which reduces chaos to system may properly be called an explanation, it may be said to ' explain ' them. But it is not explanation in the same sense as when we find that some unknown thing is a member of a class of things already known, or when the unfamiliar is 'explained' by its likeness to the familiar (cf. p. 80). If mechanism in scientific usage were really the equivalent in abstract thought of the concrete thing machine, then to discover mechanism in Nature would be to 'explain' Nature in this sense. It would mean to discover that the obscure working of Nature has the closest resemblance to that familiar object of everyday life, a machine, that is to say, to something initiated by intelligence, controlled by a living agent and directed by purpose. Whereas, in fact, the mechanism of which the scientist speaks is an abstract idea which corresponds to the concrete object machine only if these essential characteristics of every actual machine are left out; that is to say, it resembles something that nowhere exists outside the mind of the scientist. Clearly this is not explaining the obscure working of Nature in terms of a familiar object of daily life, the unknown in terms of the known, but the contrary. It is explaining concrete observed fact by the aid of a conception which in the last resort is purely symbolic. In other words, mechanism, in its scientific use, is a mode of thinking; it is not a mode of being.
There is a further point. In the past the concept of mechanism has been specially fruitful for scientific discovery in relation to what Clerk-Maxwell called 'the model ', that is, the imaginative picture of 'how it works' which precedes, and may also control, the formulation of a new hypothesis. But in so far as 'the model' is a mental picture, it is extremely difficult to keep out of the picture the idea of Matter as solid substance, of Force as something which pushes or pulls, and of Causation as a kind of mechanical link between the motive force and the matter which it moves -much as the piston is the link between the steam that supplies the power and the wheel which the crank turns. Granted the adequacy of these conceptions of Matter, Force and Causation, the word 'mechanism', even with all its original associations with the word machine, is an illuminating metaphor. But to the modern scientist, as I shall show later, these conceptions are all impossibly naive.
A friend engaged in advanced research in Physics, to whom I showed the above paragraph in typescript, write to me as follows:
I don't know whether it matters for your purpose (since popular materialism is of course not based on the most modern science), but the 'model' is rather discredited nowadays. If it happens to be useful, any suggestions it can make are always welcome, but the ideal of 'explaining' everything so that the mechanism of the processes shall be evident is no longer common, and the desire to understand things, in this sense, is being found to be nearly as often harmful as helpful. The majority, I think, of the brilliant advances in physics which this century has seen have been made by methods which ignore, or in some cases even defy, the canons of successful explanation which were accepted in Maxwell's time. We are getting quite used to theories which are 'right' in the sense that they predict all sorts of unexpected things correctly, but which remain themselves unintelligible, or even self-contradictory, when one tries to 'understand' them.
With this I would ask the reader to compare this excerpt from the latest work of that distinguished scientific thinker, Professor Whitehead.- 4
It is orthodox to hold that there is nothing in biology but what is physical mechanism under somewhat complex circumstances. One difficulty in this position is the present confusion as to the foundational concepts of physical science. . . . It cannot be too clearly understood [italics not in original] that the various physical laws which appear to apply to the behaviour of atoms are not mutually consistent as at present formulated. The appeal to mechanism on behalf of biology was in its origin an appeal to the well-attested self-consistent physical concepts as expressing the basis of all natural phenomena. But at present there is no such system of concepts. Science is taking on a new aspect which is neither purely physical, nor purely biological. It is becoming the study of organisms. Biology is the study of the larger organisms; whereas physics is the study of the smaller organisms.
The atom-once supposed to be the ultimate unit of matter and to be a solid substance comparable to an infinitesimal pellet of shot has now been analysed by Physics into a kind of solar system, consisting of one or more 'electrons ' revolving round a centre known as a 'proton '. It is believed that, relatively to the size of these infinitesimal 'planets', their orbits are larger than those of the Solar System. Thus the amount of ' solid substance ' as compared with the extent of empty space within the atom is actually less than the amount of solid matter in the planets as compared with the empty space in the Solar System-in which the orbit of Neptune is 5000 million miles across. Further, it seems more probable than not that the electron should be regarded not as ' a solid substance ' at all but as a unit of electric force.
Philosophers say that this discovery makes no difference at all to any conclusion they had previously held. I think they are right. But it does make a difference to popular materialism. To the popular mind -and all of us at times fall back to the level of popular thinking-the attractiveness of the theory that Matter is the prime reality, depends on the fact that life and thought are invisible, impalpable and evanescent, while material objects are not. If I thump on the ground with my stick, there is a solid reality which will outlast me and all MY hopes or theories. But if matter is not solid at all-if in the last resort it can be resolved into infinitesimal points of electric force-it no longer strikes the imagination as being so much more real than in-visibilities like life or thought.
Again, it is no longer possible to laugh at the metaphysician who questions the ultimate validity of the hard-and-fast distinction which ordinary common-sense would make between mind and matter. Long before the physicist has reached the analysis of the atom into protons and electrons, he has gone beyond the limits of 'observation' in the simple and direct sense in which I feel something as 'hard ' or see it as 'red' -even with a microscope to extend my visual powers. The simple data of impressions received through the five senses-which after all are the basis of the whole of our knowledge of the external world-have been worked up into highly elaborate systems by means of hypotheses framed on mathematical and scientific principles, before the atom itself, much less the electron, comes upon the stage. The atom, the electron and the like, are not things directly observed, they are hypothetical constructions, elaborated by human minds to account for actual data of sense; and for the most part these data themselves consist of records on delicate measuring instruments, photographic plates, etc., which are 'representations' of phenomena which do not admit of being directly observed. Thus in advanced Physics it is more obvious (though not less true) than in everyday experience that sense data and interpretative inference are inextricably blended; and therefore the difficulty of saying whereabouts (if anywhere) in the act of knowing, the mental ends and the material begins a difficulty long ago discerned by philosophers-has become a live issue for scientists as well.
Mind and matter [writes Mr. Bertrand Russell] are for certain purposes convenient terms, but are not ultimate realities.Electrons and protons, like the soul, are logical fictions. 1
I should not myself have dared to speak so disrespectfully of an electron. But if I were to accept, 'without prejudice', as lawyers say, the conclusion that electrons, protons and the soul are all three 'logical fictions ', I should venture to suggest that the reality whatever it is-to which the fiction 'soul' corresponds, differs in one important respect from the reality to which the fictions 'electron ' and 'proton ' correspond. The soul' stands for an element in Reality which can frame theories about electrons and protons.
The old-fashioned conception of Force, the second of the fundamental entities taken for granted in the popular idea of Mechanism, is being assailed today almost as vigorously as the old conception of Matter.
The very idea of Force is what would be termed an anthropomorphism, that is to say, it ascribes the behaviour of inanimate objects to causes derived from the behaviour of human beings. We have come to associate the motion of matter with somebody or something pulling or pushing it.2
What Prof. Soddy is here objecting to is, not the use of the term 'forces ' in Mechanics (where force may be defined as that which accelerates, retards or deflects massive bodies); but 'the attempt even to imagine forces to exist . . . as the causes of changes of energy......
It is better [he continues] to try to grasp the meaning of energy as a fundamental fact of experience than to begin, with totally inadequate knowledge, to derive from the actions of living beings a shallow analogy.
He bids us, therefore-when we are considering ultimates, not merely particular problems of mechanics-to discard altogether the idea of Force, and fall back on the conceptions of Potential and Kinetic Energy.
This conclusion, coming from so high an authority, I am bound to accept. I would, however, venture to point out that potential and kinetic energy are abstract intellectual concepts arrived at by generalisation from the study of the behaviour of physical bodiesso abstract that it is hard for a layman like myself to feel certain he apprehends their true meaning. But though an abstract conception of this kind may be of far more value to the physicist than the conception of 'force ', I must confess that it seems to me to be equally anthropomorphic, only in a different way. 'Potentiality' is not a thing that can be observed; it is a conception framed by a human mind in order to state in the most highly generalised form an expectation that, if such and such observable change is made in the existing situation, certain other observable changes will take place. I cannot see that an interpretation in terms of ' expectation' is less anthropomorphic than one in terms of ' pushing'. To me it appears to be the replacing of an anthropomorphism which has been found to be misleading by one which for the purpose in view is of a more useful and illuminating character.
Be that as it may, the point I would press is that, if we are no longer allowed to think of Force as something which pushes or pulls, the old conception of mechanism 'has had another hard blow. 'Mechanism', unless treated as pure symbol, implies Matter as a solid substance, Force as that which pulls or pushes, and motion as that which is 'caused' by their conjunction.
Matter and Force have turned into something else. There remains to consider Causation.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
After two hundred years of discussion there is still hot debate as to the precise significance of the concept of Causation. A couple of pages is all that I can spare to the subject without disturbing the proportion of this book. I cannot, therefore, hope either to initiate into its mysteries a reader unfamiliar with the literature or to contribute anything of value to one who has digested it. I can merely state my own view as briefly and simply as possible, but without any attempt to justify it.
Hume long ago pointed out that causation is not a thing that can be observed, and Huxley revived and reiterated his arguments. All we can actually observe is that B habitually follows A. The assertion, then, that A is the 'cause ' of B must be based on inference of some sort; and this is equally true whether the inference is legitimate or not. Kant took up his parable from Hume, and went on to maintain that the human mind is so constituted that it cannot help making this kind of inference. On his view such phenomena can be grasped by the mind only if they are related to one another, or at least conceived as capable of being related, as cause and effect. I cannot experience a pinprick without taking it for granted that it has some cause, though I may quite well infer the wrong one. This taking for granted that for every event there must be some cause, Kant explains by saying that the peculiar quality of the relation we call causation is one which is read into experience by the experiencing mind. To this particular contention of Kant there has never, so far as I know, been given any satisfactory answer.
We seem; then, to be shut up to one of two conclusions.
(1) There is the conclusion which was drawn by the school of thinkers known as Philosophic Idealists. In Kant's own view the conception of causation is essentially anthropomorphic ; it does not hold good in the sphere of Ultimate Reality. The Idealists, on the contrary, maintain that the relation of cause and effect, though contributed by our minds in the act of knowing, is a relation which must also hold good of Reality Itself. Largely on this ground, they argue that Reality must be conceived as rational-in the sense that Its structure must be thought of as similar to what we know as Reason. The Universe, then, must be viewed as the expression of Mind; and our minds partake of the nature of the Universal Mind, and see things-of course, 'through a glass darkly'as It or He sees them.
(2) But, on the other hand, suppose we think that Kant was right-apart, I mean, from details in the way in which he worked out his views-in holding the conception of causation to be a purely anthropomorphic principle of interpretation. Causation then becomes a symbolic representation of something behind phenomena, of the real nature of which we cannot be aware. In that case the last thread has snapped between the conception of Mechanism as Science uses it and what we call a machine. Even the notion of activity has disappeared from it. It is a way of saying that a ' working drawing ' of Reality may be made which, if Matter, Force and Causation were what apparently they are not, would represent the way it works. In other words, the conception of mechanism is definitely misleading unless it is treated as a pure diagram; but, recognised for what it is, it remains a necessary instrument of scientific thought.
To sum up. If we affirm the ultimate validity of the category of causation, we seem to land ourselves in some form of Philosophic Idealism. If we refuse to do so, we put the last nail in the coffin of mechanomorphic Materialism.
I am not sufficiently versed in the higher mathematics and in the theory of electro -magnetism to profess to understand the case for Einstein's theory. Much less am I entitled to pronounce what bearing, if any, it has upon the question of Materialism. But persons who are better qualified than myself to judge, and who cannot be suspected of any theological bias, think that it has a bearing.
Let Mr. Bertrand Russell speak: 3
The theory of relativity, by merging time into space-time, has damaged the traditional notion of substance more than all the arguments of the philosophers. Matter, for common-sense, is something which persists in time and moves in space. But for modern relativity -physics this view is no longer tenable. A piece of matter has become, not a persistent thing with varying states, but a system of inter-related events. The old solidity is gone, and with it the characteristics that, to the materialist, made matter seem more real than fleeting thoughts.
I What I believe, p. 17. (Kogan Paul, 1925.)
2 F. Soddy, Matter and Energy, p. 20. (Home University Library.)
3 Introduction to now edition of Lange's History of Materialism, p. xii. (Kegan Paul, 1925.)
4.-Science and the Modern World, p. 145.(Cambridge University Press, 1926.)
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